Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ancient warfare: A very short introduction

Here is a book review of: Harry Sidebottom (2005) Ancient warfare: A very short introduction, Oxford University Press. Review by Dr. Malcolm Kennedy

This book deconstructs the idea of a "Western Way of War" in ancient Greek and Roman warfare. Courage, a factor in high intensity warfare, is an important part of this ideological construction. The Greeks were excluded from this ideological construction by the Romans and relegated to the category of "eastern warfare".

The ideas might be applicable to non-western warfare in region that this site deals with (Burma-Yunnan-Bay of Bengal). The idea that mainland Southeast Asian warfare has always been low intensity and casualty avoiding, has similar overtones. One of the lessons: detailed cross-cultural historical comparison can reveal historical blind spots created by ideology and since warfare is such an ideologically charged activity, detailed cross-cultural comparison might reveal many historical errors.

The book also covers Luttwak's analysis of Roman "Grand Strategy" as well as criticisms of it, issues of gender, and Hopkin's analysis of "agrarian crisis" in Roman Italy which is illustrated with a nice feedback diagram.